Replanting a Church: Advice from the Church Doctor, Part 1

I have to start by pointing out the consistent excellence of the Christian Standard, a weekly magazine published by the independent Christian Churches. You can get a free email subscription. (I just wish they’d PLEASE add an RSS feed.) And their articles are also published on their website. Alan Rouse put me onto the magazine, and I’ve been a subscriber ever since.

This week they published an article by Kent R. Hunter, with Church Doctor Ministries. It’s got some intriguing ideas in it, and I thought I’d post some of the material over the next few days, as they closely relate to the other posts on replanting.

Hunter describes 4 fishing pots —

The De-churched—They consider themselves Christians, but do not attend church. They have been away from the church six to eight years or longer. They include young adults who graduate from high school and stop attending church.

They include those who experienced some traumatic event in a previous church: a division, disagreement with leadership, or emotional blowup with members. Occasionally it’s a traumatic event in their own family: divorce, death of a parent, or the loss of a job.

The Under-churched—They also may feel they’re Christians. Their occasional attendance usually is triggered by a stressful event: a job loss, marital challenges, difficulty with children or parents. On rare occasions, under-churched people will attend for a joyful celebration, like a 50th wedding anniversary.

The Semi-churched—Frequently known as holiday attendees, they most often attend at Easter. Their attendance may reflect a traditional habit or peer pressure from family members. Semi-churched people may also attend on Christmas, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, or Thanksgiving.

The Unchurched—Identified by their own perception, they respond to the census question about religious affiliation by saying, “I have no church (temple, mosque, synagogue).” Research shows most of them would say they are “spiritually interested.” They also may subscribe allegiance to a “higher power.”

Those self-described as “unchurched” represent 50 to 60 percent of the U.S. population. Another 10 to 20 percent would say they have a church, but could not tell you the name of their pastor or priest. They are “functionally unchurched.” Collectively, the unchurched and the functionally unchurched represent between 60 and 80 percent of your friends, relatives, neighbors, and people with whom you work or go to school. They are the majority of the population. They represent the largest “fishing pool” for those called to be fishers of men and women.

Now notice what Hunter doesn’t include —

* Christians poached from a sister Church of Christ because you have a better worship service or hipper teen minister.

* Christians poached from across denominational lines because you have a better worship service or hipper teen minister.

* Christians moving into town and choosing your church because you have a better worship service or hipper teen minister.

The goal isn’t to out-compete other churches by providing superior goods and services. Now, if people move to your congregation because they will be better equipped to serve in God’s kingdom or because they find your church to be more like Jesus, that can be a very good thing. But it’s not evangelism.

Next, we’ll see how Hunter explains just how hard evangelism has become.


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